A snapshot of where Indiana ranks nationally in 60 key economic measurements was released today by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The report includes revealing outcomes both for areas in which Indiana is doing well – regulatory freedom and small business survival, for example – and where improvement needs to take place – such as post-secondary education attainment and the state’s poverty rate.
This report is the next step in Indiana Vision 2025, a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to provide leadership and a long-range economic development action plan for Indiana. It marks the start of the Indiana Chamber examining key metrics at two-year intervals through 2025, covering progress in four critical areas: Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure and a Dynamic and Creative Culture.
The overriding message, says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar, is that the state cannot afford to rest on recent laurels like the education reforms of 2011 and instituting a right-to-work law in 2012. "We can’t be fatigued by the effort or take a break on improving Indiana. Other states and countries are moving at a fast pace and we need to remain competitive in order to have a prosperous environment for our citizens."
And in areas where Indiana is currently lagging, change will not happen overnight, Brinegar cautions. "It will take a robust effort by like-minded groups to affect both policy and societal changes that impact these metrics. Significant advances by Indiana also can be undone through inattention, poor policy choices or the dramatic actions of other states and nations."
While passing good public policies, where appropriate, are one element of this larger picture, Brinegar asserts the key is implementation. “There has been no better example of that than education reforms. Too much time, money and effort has been spent the last two years on efforts to reverse 2011 achievements (school choice voucher program, charter school expansion) rather than ensuring these are implemented at the highest level to assist Hoosier students and families.
"Our No. 1 priority has to be investing in the education, knowledge and skills of Hoosiers. Our goal is to achieve prosperity and cultivate a world-class environment full of opportunities," he concludes.
When it comes to the report card’s specific ratings, the most progress has been made in building an Attractive Business Climate. Indiana is at the very top for the regulatory freedom index and in the top five of the small business survival index. (Separately, Indiana’s business climate was recently ranked fifth best nationally and best in the Midwest by Chief Executive magazine).
Indiana has also enjoyed advances regarding its Dynamic and Creative Culture – most notably jumping into the top 10 for business research and development.
Further work, however, is needed in producing Outstanding Talent. More Hoosiers attaining associate’s degrees and higher plus focusing on early education are among the keys. A disturbing placement is Indiana’s poverty rating. Indiana has gone from having the 12th lowest poverty rate in the nation in 2000, to 32nd in 2005 and now 35th in 2011.
"This illustrates the sad reality for some of our citizens and emphasizes why workforce training, sending children to pre-school, completing high school and beyond are so vital. Only when we put greater focus on these activities will we have a significant impact on moving people out of poverty," Brinegar surmises.
Meanwhile, Indiana’s Superior Infrastructure driver has been an advantage for the state, but the dynamic surrounding road funding and energy costs is changing. Case in point: Indiana is trending in the wrong direction for affordable electricity, dropping to 19th in 2011 (was 11th in 2000 and 12th in 2005).
A summary of Indiana’s top and bottom rankings, the biggest gains and drops, plus the goals established for each is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025. The report card, the Indiana Vision 2025 plan and additional information are also available at that site.